Sailors embrace underdog role heading into regional volleyball playoffs
Steamboat Springs senior Sarah Heckel leaps for a solo block against Rifle earlier this season. The Sailors will travel to Palisade High School on Saturday for the regional playoffs and a chance at the 4A Colorado State High School State Championships. (Photograph by Leah Vann)
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the date, time and location released Tuesday, Oct. 30 in an information box.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Sailors volleyball team will be the underdogs this Saturday when they take the court to play in the regional playoffs at Ponderosa High School in Parker, but head coach Wendy Hall doesn’t mind.
“I think we are going to surprise some people,” Hall said. “I think we are much better than a 26th ranking. Three years ago, we got knocked off by the lower seed in a regional — so it happens. You have to have one really good day of volleyball, and everybody has to be at their best.”
Steamboat, 14-8, placed second in the Western Slope standings this season behind first-place Palisade and just ahead of third-place Battle Mountain — a team the Sailors beat twice.
What: Volleyball Regional
Where: Ponderosa High School
7007 Bayou Gulch Rd, Parker, CO 80134
When: 10 a.m. vs. Ponderosa,
11 a.m. vs. Weld Central
Saturday, Nov. 3
Palisade was ranked 10th and will host a regional match. Battle Mountain was ranked 13th and will play at Woodland Park, and Eagle Valley was ranked 28th and will go to Palmer Ridge.
Hall believes Steamboat should have been ranked higher, but she said the team struggled in a couple of early season tournaments and that hurt the team in the RPI — rating percentage index — rankings, which are used to seed the regional tournaments.
Steamboat was slotted to go to the regional hosted by Palisade, but the Colorado High School Activities Association tries to avoid pairing up teams in the same league. Steamboat moved up to No. 26, and Berthoud is heading to Palisade this weekend.
Steamboat will face Ponderosa, 15-8 this season, in the opening match Saturday and will face Weld Central, 19-4, in the second match. The winner of the regional tournament will earn a berth at the state tournament, which will be held Nov. 8 to 10 at the Denver Coliseum.
“It is what it is,” Hall said of Steamboat’s ranking. “I think we are a good enough team to be ranked higher, but we kind of wrote our own script on that. We didn’t take care of business early on.”
Steamboat closed out the regular season with four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over Battle Mountain on Oct. 16 and a 3-0 win over Grand Junction on Oct. 20. The team, however, has not played a match in nine days and will have another four before its first post-season match.
“I think our players are going to be excited,” Hall said. “We have had a week off as far as not knowing who we were going to play. We did some different things in practice and tried to mix it up.”
The break also came at a good point for the Sailors.
“It ended up being a great thing for us,” Hall said of having the week off. “We had a couple of illnesses, we had an injury that needed to heal, and we had a girl that had other school obligations. So, it ended up being a blessing.”
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